Creative Glut: Selected Essays

Karl Jay Shapiro, Author
Karl Jay Shapiro, Author Ivan R. Dee Publisher $18.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-56663-557-8
Reviewed on: 04/26/2004
Release date: 02/01/2004
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April may not be the cruelest month, but Shapiro may be one of T.S. Eliot's cruelest critics. In this volume of literary reviews and personal essays, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet speaks harshly of Eliot and""The Waste Land.""""That it is lacking in unity is obvious,"" he writes.""The straight descriptive passages are weak: the section titled 'A Game of Chess' is one of the dullest and most meretricious of Eliot's writings."" Shapiro also skewers Eliot's contemporary Ezra Pound, calling his oft-praised""Cantos""""a series of experiments that failed."" Though perhaps unnecessarily sharp, Shapiro's words offer a provocative assessment of writers now enshrined in the university canon. Not every essay in this 20-piece collection is negative. In his treatises on William Carlos Williams and Henry Miller, for example, Shapiro is much kinder. He calls Williams""the only modern poet who searches everywhere for new poetry"" and Miller""screamingly funny."" But this book--which arrives a few months after the Library of America's reissue of Shapiro's many verses (Karl Shapiro: Selected Poems, edited by John Updike)--lacks enough supporting material to help readers fully appreciate the poet's critical achievements. Although Phillips's foreword offers a broad overview, the individual essays are not introduced by any biographical or historical context. Nonetheless, Sharpiro's well-cut prose sparkles on the page and his vigorous opinions make these literary essays exceptionally entertaining.
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